Ladson, SC – Prediction: One of these days, Stephanie Hemphill-Pellerin will win a bigtime bass derby. And when she does, exactly no one who’s fished alongside or against her will be surprised. It might seem like a lofty forecast for any angler. Then again, the Village Mills, Texas based bass pro was practically born in a boat, raised on one of bass fishing’s illustrious lakes, and exposed to the tournament bass game almost from day one.
As new official lure sponsor of the articulate, world-traveled, ambitious bass pro, Z-Man® Fishing has pledged to have her back for the foreseeable future. But that’s jumping slightly ahead of what’s actually a pretty cool fishing backstory.
“Pretty early on, my dad would take me fishing in his flatbottom bass boat. But my mom ran her own pontoon, too, which served as her official fishing ride on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, our home lake,” remembers Hemphill-Pellerin, a military vet who today competes on the National Professional Fishing League (NPFL) and Division 2 of the Bassmaster Opens. “So, starting at around six months old, my mom would plop me down in a playpen inside her pontoon, where she could keep track of me while she fished for crappie.
“Few years later, I started bass fishing with my dad and ‘pawpaw,’ who both competed in local tournaments. Eventually, fishing developed into a passion I couldn’t live without. Unlike most young girls I knew, my dreams always revolved around someday becoming a professional bass angler.
“The dream has never changed,” she concedes. “For me, the call toward fishing has always been about the mystery. The fun is in trying to figure it all out, like a puzzle that’s constantly changing. I love it and really enjoy competing, especially against the fish and sometimes, even against myself.”
For Hemphill-Pellerin, the desire to succeed as a bass pro flows from an even deeper place and the memory of a fishing hero. “Many years back, following a hot Texas day on the water, having likely caught a bunch of bass, I lost my grandad to a stroke,” she recalls. “He passed away right at the boat ramp, his rods still rigged, his favorite fishing hat still in place.
“Since that day, I’ve kept a promise to him that I’d see this thing through—to succeed as a professional bass angler and to enjoy every minute and every part of the game, no matter what.”
A proud U.S. Army veteran, wife and most importantly, a mother of two boys, Hemphill-Pellerin has travelled the world over, including a tour at Yongsan base in Seoul, Korea. Upon returning stateside, she commenced fishing immediately, beginning the first of two stints as a competitive basser. “While working as a realtor, I bought an 18-foot Alumacraft and got into redfish and flounder fishing. Fished almost every day.”
In 2021, Hemphill-Pellerin earned Rookie of the Year honors on the Lady Bass Anglers Association (LBAA) tour, finishing 4th in Angler-of-the-Year points. In her first year on the NPFL Tour, at a September 2023 event at Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma, her career ascended to another level, once more.
“On day three, they put a live camera in my boat, which really got my nerves going,” she laughs. “I experienced every emotion that day. Like I was being watched, judged. Lost three fish that could have led to a win. After that, I had to go catch some smaller fish just to regroup and get my head right. But I overcame the doubts, caught a respectable limit and ultimately earned a 7th place finish. That was a turning point, giving me a real boost of confidence. Fishing is ninety-percent mental, ten-percent physical. Understanding that has put me on the right path.”
In 2024, Hemphill-Pellerin will fish both the NPFL and Division 2 of the Bassmaster Opens—all part of her big-picture plan. “I’ll be gunning to make the Classic. That’s a dream. And I really believe that every time you fail, you’re that much closer to achieving success.”
A self-described finesse angler, Hemphill-Pellerin excels at shaky head fishing with a Z-Man Finesse WormZ™ or SMH WormZ™—though she is rapidly accelerating her skills with forward-facing sonar.
“I’d been fishing Z-Man baits for several years—ChatterBaits® and ElaZtech® soft plastics. So, when it came time add a new lure sponsor, a friend with 44 Tackle suggested I get in touch with Z-Man. Right off, I knew this was the right move for me. Really liked the thought of working with a down-to-earth, family-owned business, and Z-Man and its people hit all the right notes.”
“We liked Stephanie immediately,” says Z-Man pro staff and promotions manager Joey Prochazka. “Clearly, she’s highly driven to succeed, approachable and easy to talk to. Of course, we love it when someone in our Z-Man family wins a tournament. But even more important is the way pros like Stephanie engage with fans and help tell the Z-Man story. Her career is off to a terrific start, no doubt, and we’re excited to watch her grow and to share in all her future success, on the water and off.”
While Hemphill-Pellerin has become a role model to many, including numerous young and aspiring female anglers, the new Z-Man pro takes a refreshing approach to a decidedly male-dominated profession.
“I don’t look at myself as a female who happens to fish, but rather as a lifelong angler, same as anyone else out there fishing for a living,” she admits. “You’re told that women don’t do these types of things. But what’s helped is something a good friend told me: ‘At first, you’re going to get your teeth knocked in. But as you learn and operate on God’s timeline, things are going to click right into place.’
“Circuits like the NPFL operate like a family; they’ve been very welcoming to me, their first female competitor. I’ve never wanted to be treated any differently than anyone else out there just fishing, doing their thing.”
Following that tragic Texas day, her grandad’s final day on the water, Hemphill-Pellerin made a promise. “I fished proudly out of pawpaw’s boat for quite a while after that day. Kept his old fishing hat right up on the console. Still today, reminds me of his love for fishing and what he told me—to enjoy fishing, to always keep that love and that curiosity for solving the puzzle.”
About Z-Man Fishing Products
A dynamic Charleston, South Carolina based company, Z-Man Fishing Products has melded leading edge fishing tackle with technology for nearly three decades. Z-Man has long been among the industry’s largest suppliers of silicone skirt material used in jigs, spinnerbaits and other lures. Creator of the Original ChatterBait®, Z-Man is also the renowned innovators of 10X Tough ElaZtech® softbaits, among the most coveted baits in fresh- and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest-growing lure brands worldwide.